Failing is an integral part of the human experience. We all know the proverb: if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.
There are endless self-help books and inspirational talks on YouTube encouraging us to feel good about our failures, and reminding us that they are the most important steps towards our successes.
How many failed attempts did Edison make before he successfully created the light bulb? Don’t tell me you haven’t heard this one before.
But how often do we see these failings celebrated in the news? Where is the Nobel Prize for Failure? Admittedly, I’m not sure anyone would actually want to win that, and certainly an entire article could be devoted to a debate about whether our failures are only endearing in light of final success…(sadly, no-one wants to read about a guy who once failed to make a light bulb, unless he eventually figured it out).
But this aside, organisational psychologist Dr Samuel West is shedding light on the peculiarity of failure in a unique way. First opened in Helsingborg, Sweden, Dr West created a museum celebrating an array of product failures, mostly from global organisations.
West explains, “I got tired of constant worship of success, how as a society we glorify success and stigmatise failure. I see success stories everywhere, but there’s’ usually no hint that some of the success involved failure or mistakes or any hardships along the way.”
He was inspired by the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, which portrayed aspects of heartbreak. Some of the objects in West’s museum include:
1. Colgate Frozen Entrees
Yes, COLGATE. As in, the teeth people. The idea was to encourage people to brush their teeth after eating their lasagne.
2. Coca-Cola Blak
The coffee edition. Slightly curious?
3. Harley Davidson Perfume
Sweat, leather and grease… mmmmm.
4. Bic for Her
Only ‘girly’ colours available.
5. The Trump Board Game
Need we say more?
There is plenty of research out there to suggest that part of being human is to feel pleasure at other people’s pain. I prefer to think of it as a sense of relief and happiness (and mutual acknowledgement) that comes from being reminded that we are not alone.
West acknowledged this by allowing visitors to write down their own mistakes on one or several post-its and stick them on a wall. Alternatively, you can go into extra detail by visiting the failure confession booth.
West says, “Seeing big brands failing is liberating. [Visitors feel they] can also fail when trying to learn something new or [testing] a new behaviour, or push my own boundaries and leave my comfort zone.”